Finding Gratitude in Times of Transition
It’s easy to talk about transitions, like a cocoon becoming a butterfly or some similar beautiful analogy. However, times of transition may include anxiety, grief, and simultaneously joy, which is a lot to feel all at once. The cocoon-to-butterfly process is not smooth or simple. In order to fly, the butterfly has to break out of the cocoon. That’s a lot of tearing! Usually there is grief in saying goodbye even if you’re glad about it. Being in a transition inevitably brings suffering because you no longer know what is next. Most of us are creatures of habit and enjoy knowing what is to come.
When the transition is a clear choice, it’s natural to conjure up gratitude. But an unexpected and unwanted change may be especially unsettling, as the unpredictability removes illusions of control. It’s far more difficult to feel blessed during an unwanted relationship or career change.
While it may feel ridiculous to try to find gratitude during change, there’s no harm in trying. Think of it this way: If you try to find something to be grateful for, you won’t be any worse off than when you started. There’s nothing to lose, and a chance to gain some positive emotions.
Reflection. Ask yourself questions like, “What can I learn from this? What am I moving toward? What are the possible outcomes if I don’t make this transition vs. if I do?” Focusing on where you’re headed will be more helpful than focusing on what you’re leaving behind. Overall, reflect on the fact that now your path is open. Perhaps there is gratitude in knowing that a whole new world of possibilities lies ahead.
Practice. Lama Tsomo recommends Shamata and Tonglen in times of transition. Shamata is a foundational practice — a great starting point if you’re new to meditation, or a great place to come home to if you are an experienced meditator. Begin with Shamata, as you may feel like you are back at square one. Ground yourself in your breath and body so you can be present where you are. Times of change can feel similar to being lost in the woods. In the realization of being lost, the most helpful thing you can do is stop and say, “I am here.” Once you feel settled in this foreign place, Tonglen may be a helpful practice. You can begin by extending compassion to yourself in this time of transition, then expand that compassion to all people experiencing transition. This should leave you with a sense of oneness as you remember that you are not lost nor alone.
Click here for guided Shamata and Tonglen practices with Lama Tsomo.